The cowardly and vile assassination of the reporter team of El Comercio newspaper in Ecuador showed that Latin America is a hostile and dangerous continent to practice journalism.
In view of the impotence and indignation generated by the murder of journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra, at the hands of the self-styled narcotics gang 'Frente Sinisterra Oliver', defined as dissident of the FARC; The Latin American press sees how, despite the precedents in the matter and the pronouncements made by different human rights organizations, the governments and authorities of the continent have made no efforts to guarantee that the press of the continent is free and can be exercised without no type of threat.
What was evidenced in the case of the journalists of the newspaper El Comercio, was the negligence of the governments of Colombia and Ecuador, first to prevent the drug gang that murdered the two reporters and the driver, to have the power and control territorial that today has in the border area between both countries; and second, to make the efforts and execute the required actions, in order to avoid what finally happened, despite the calls and warnings of organizations such as the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), together with NGOs and Human Rights groups.
However, broadening the view of the circumstantial fact that today mourns journalists, media, civil society and the international community of Latin America, it must be said that the continent is definitely one of the most hostile and dangerous places in the world for the exercise of journalism. Facts such as self-censorship, censorship by legal means or violent and intimidating action, and even more serious, the murder of journalists, account for this bleak panorama.
Cases that worry and outrage:
It is not a coincidence that, according to RSF, of all the countries of Latin America, only in Costa Rica the situation for the exercise of journalism is good, while in Chile and Uruguay it is fairly good. On the other hand, in countries such as Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and Paraguay, the situation of journalists is difficult, but in Cuba it is very serious. In the other countries of the region there are significant problems.
In the cases of Colombia and Mexico, there are factors such as the effects of the violence of the illegal armed groups, the armed conflict and the war between drug gangs. For its part, in Venezuela and Cuba, in addition to violence against journalists, there is censorship and closure of media by the regimes that govern in each country.
It should be remembered that the government of Nicolás Maduro has an antecedent, when in an authoritarian way, acting like any dictator, he censored NTN24, RCN Televisión, Caracol Televisión and CNN in Spanish. Years ago, Hugo Chávez closed RCTV (Radio Caracas Televisión).
In countries where there are significant problems, there is also a history of censorship, such as that of Mauricio Macri in Argentina, who likewise, acting as a dictator, censured the Telesur network, which has not broadcast its signal in that country more than two years ago.
On the other hand, according to the SIP, in countries like Guatemala and Bolivia there are situations of harassment and pressure for journalists and the media. In Guatemala, for example, as reported by the IAPA, there is constant harassment by the government of Jimmy Morales and his representatives, who constantly point to the media to be "defamers" of the government, attributing the causes of their bad image and unpopularity among Guatemalans, opening with this the possibility of generating acts of violence against journalists.
Regarding Bolivia, the media have to deal with the pressure exerted by the government of Evo Morales, who through a decree has tried to force newspapers, channels and broadcasters to publish the information and promote the campaigns carried out by his government. Not to mention Nicaragua and Honduras, where there are proposals that propose to regulate social networks, limiting the already limited freedom of expression that exists in those countries.
Governments and military and police authorities must understand that a free and autonomous press is one of the pillars of any democracy. On the contrary, it is synonymous and characteristic of authoritarian regimes with dictates of dictatorships. The criticism and the necessary counterweight that the media must exercise can not be limited to acts of censorship, limitations or any other form of violence, much less to the murder of journalists, such as those that today outrage the entire continent.
Latin American Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez
Translated from "Opinión: Hay que ser valiente para ejercer el periodismo en América Latina"